The website of the grossly misnamed Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) currently features a screed in praise of rats. No kidding.

Like baseball players heading for the Fall Classic, the quasi-medical front group for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been forced to reach deep into its bench in its quest to end all medical research that requires the use of animals. Strike one came as PCRM president Neal Barnard was exposed for his role as president of the PETA Foundation and for collaborating with violent animal-rights activists; strike two came as PCRM’s Jerry Vlasak was banned from the UK because he endorsed the assassination of doctors; and strike three saw John Pippin separated from his job after his ties to PCRM’s extremists were exposed. Now that PCRM’s top sluggers have struck out, the group has turned to “Research Issue Expert” Jonathan Balcombe — who boasts a long history of animal-rights work — to peddle hogwash about the radiance of rodents.

“Rats are among the world’s most poorly understood creatures,” begins Balcombe’s tribute to the virtue of vermin. His bizarre treatise complains that rats have been “stigmatized as filthy ‘pests’ for centuries” and extols their supposed willingness to “play fair.” Balcombe’s commentary fails to mention human beings at all, except to liken us to rodents. How PCRM can persist in presenting itself as a doctors group — concerned with human health rather than animal rights — becomes increasingly hard to fathom.

In one particularly strange paragraph, Balcombe draws a parallel between rats and humans by claiming the little fur balls enjoy a varied diet:

Like humans, rats appreciate variety in their food. A 2003 study found that rats (and hamsters) favored new foods following several days’ exposure to a single food. Rats will also enter a deadly cold room to retrieve highly palatable food, even though their regular chow (which is dry and monotonous) is available in their cozy nests.

We wouldn’t be surprised if Barnard now insists the rats ran into the “deadly” cold room because they were addicted to dairy products. After all, in his jihad against any food derived from animals, Barnard has made the absurd claim that cheese is “morphine on a cracker.” Those poor four-legged wretches must be hooked.

Balcombe is no less an animal-rights zealot than Vlasak or Barnard. His defense of rat-kind is reminiscent of PETA President Ingrid Newkirk’s offensive claim that “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” Maybe he picked up that mangled view when he worked in PETA’s Research and Investigation Department between 1991 and 1993. Or when he moved on to the Humane Society of the United States, where he worked until 2000. Balcombe also offers his expertise as an “expert” available with Animal Consultants International — a PR and advice shop for animal rights activists that doubles as a speakers bureau for Michael Greger, Kim Stallwood, and Andrew Knight.